A journal of TMI

Why I go to California

I’ve tried to move to California many times

Something about that place

Speaks to me

The ugliness of modern life

Can be found most anywhere

And this is no exception

So when in California I ponder it or

Squint my eyes to screen it out

Focus on the beauty instead

The banality doesn’t dissuade me, nor the horror

Los Angeles doesn’t rebuff me

With its whole ‘natural’ thing, nor its freeways and ‘car-be-cues’

It is urban after all, yes

More like 100 cities

Crammed into a valley

But it’s surrounded by mountains

And the sea

Even the worst neighborhoods have that

Can remember that

I don’t figure into it though

Los Angeles doesn’t focus on me

It’s fair to say

It barely notices me

Which is part of the problem

Why I haven’t stuck yet

And part of why I go there

I have no real reason to be there

(Unless love of the sea is a reason, or seaweed, or film)

No job in California to say

‘You have to be here on Monday

And take care of this’

No-

On Monday I’ll be elsewhere

Doing other things

Good things worth doing

Just this year I realized

That if I had insisted to go there

When I was shoved out the door

And told ‘Go anywhere (that has a university) and do well – do your best’

I would have done better in California

Instead

I went to Chicago

So cold

So morbid

(For me it was – I became the living dead – the outpatient; I was cut up and tested)

This wouldn’t have happened by the sea, near the mountains

A bitter northern lake was the perfect setting for that

The problems I brought there would have dispersed

On the beach or the crest

Of a canyon hike

I think those that loved me

Wanted to keep me closer

While pushing me away

But either way meant boarding an airplane

To get home in a few hours

So what was the big deal?

They said ‘No’

And I needed to get away

Not take the greyhound for a secret weekend in Baltimore (which was too close – a mere 700 miles)

Indulging my white-faced passion

For a friend that literally stabbed me

Suffering from the drama of abandonment

Which was the opposite of what was taking place

I had a friend from California at the time

Who was sleeping with this friend in Baltimore

I could have taken his place (as he did mine)

In his home state

A swap negotiation that would have meant freedom

For me

He was from Ramona

‘Which is nowhere – up in the desert hills of San Diego’

Once much later on one of my trips to California

(This time the excuse was a conference)

I was invited to spend an afternoon there

By a buddy I had made – he was a paramedic – we said hi to his father,

and went to the Barona reservation casino for dinner with him

He ate standing up at a counter

It might have been a corn dog

Did we go up there for dinner? Was that the overt reason?

I left hungry but got what I came for-

to walk through an average neighborhood, probably past the former house of an old friend

who I’d dreamt of pounding to death with my fists

And seen

That it was just a place

A nowhere place up in the high desert

Not without beauty

A guy sawing plywood in his driveway

Desert scrub invaded by wan suburbs

I haven’t been to the far north of California, but I’ve driven around

More than just a few spots

Tried different environments

As I pretended

That I had the power

To be there

The place where I hadn’t wadded up a bunch of chances like tissues

And infected them with snot-like cancer

I can’t decide which is more beautiful

The Pacific shaped rocks on a pebble strewn beach

Or the sound they make as the water washes through them

To climb once again into the powerful surf

The flora / the fauna , of course attenuated by the clumsy violent history of our people

Who cleared it, settled it, made it what it is today

A collection of bad architecture, simple rotten boxes or gaudy faux appropriations

Some masterpieces

Like the Getty museum

Which could pass for the aerie

Of robed Vulcan hidden masters

Or the cottages on the Venice canals

Whose simple gardens invite

Elegant solutions

But most of the housing stock and interior design- hideous

I of course say this as an ambivalent alienated wanderer

Leering from the outside

A home is a home though

A design scheme or simplicity can make it work

I’ve seen it happen

What’s so great about a brick row house in Philadelphia by the way?

Or a restored farmhouse in Maryland?

Except that that’s what I grew up with

I screen out whatever ugliness is there effortlessly

Which as I said I can do in California

Sometimes this is as easy as gazing

Over a rich buffoon’s golf course

On the edge of a bluff

To see the mists of Catalina catch the light

Ever so enchantingly

I said goodbye to that today

My life set on the path where I’m not quite there yet

And I could have done better

But that’s just mist that will burn off

In an hour’s time

Or grow into fog

Or wed itself to pollution

And become smog

And the whole thing will fall into the ocean

One day (soon)

While bursting into flames

The ocean, however

Will remain

And I’ll take a boat to get there

If I have to

and return again

Looking for a place

Somewhere to start

A lease on a clean and focused heart

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